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| 3 minutes read

The 8 Dimensions (yes 8) of Building Information Modeling

Building Informational Modeling or BIM originated as a 3D digital model in the 1970's. BIM  depicted  the dimensions of a physical asset, along an x, y, z axis or width, length and height, including all architectural details. These 3 dimensional depictions were used to support architects, engineers, and contractors to design and construct building projects. Nowadays, Nowadays, 3D BIM models are used for many common, popular purposes, including use by Home Depot to depict proposed home renovation projects.  

Meanwhile, over the last 50 years, BIM  evolved into a far more sophisticated shared resource and database providing information for everyone involved with a physical asset. Users now include multiple different entities across the life cycle of physical assets. These expanded stakeholders include owners, investors, manufacturers, lenders, facility managers, and anyone else making informed decisions surrounding an asset from conception through demolition. Consequently, the information BIM now tracks, and is capable of tracking,  has expanded from the physical dimensions of our 3D world to include the following:

  • 4D BIM tracks cost information.
  • 5D BIM tracks scheduling information.
  • 6D BIM tracks sustainability information.
  • 7D BIM tracks asset management information.
  • 8D BIM tracks hazardous conditions and safety information.

And these 8 dimensions may soon be expanding to capture other vital information and data about a physical asset.

The purpose of generating and recording data about all aspects of the asset is not just some theoretical concept created by academia. Rather, think of it as health records for the asset, much like annual physicals, x-rays, MRI's, Electrocardiograms or ECG's, blood analysis and other information compiled about your health from birth through death. With respect to humans, such information helps to maintain patient health and assists in predicting, preventing and tracking potential disease in both the patient and their siblings and children. 8D BIM  records the "vitals" of a building and perform a similar function with respect to physical assets.  When 3D BIM is expanded to 8D BIM, it provides a health record that can be used to predict and track proper maintenance of not only that asset but also other existing or future assets within the inventory of the stakeholders. Simply put, think of 8D BIM  for a physical asset as being comparable to the health records your doctors maintain with respect to your health and well being.

And just as one or more doctors compile your health records, 8D BIM has multiple sources of data input. The expansion of BIM from 3D to 8D is typically achieved through the integration of other software and applications that work in conjunction with BIM. These other applications generate 4D through 8D information by extracting 3D data from the BIM and then applying data from historical databases to generate the results to be tracked.  When the Internet of Things or IOT is combined with Artificial Intelligence, the possibilities are endless. [See, “How the Internet of Things or IoT is Monitoring Construction Activities", posted 6/25/23].

The development of Digital Twins, a growing aspect throughout all major manufacturing, (tracking planned versus the actual manufactured product) is dependent upon the tracking and analysis of data. 4D information is generated by extracting a quantity takeoff of dimensions and materials from the BIM and then applying historical unit pricing to calculate construction costs. 5D information is generated using the same take-off extracted from the BIM but then applying historical scheduling information to establish a production schedule. 6D information is generated by comparing information about products and installation extracted from BIM and then calculating a sustainability score. 7D information is generated by comparing performance data generated through the sustainability model with actual real-time information regarding performance providing information to manage the asset. 8D information is generated by comparing location information extracted from BIM with risks and hazardous conditions related thereto under health and safety laws.   

Of course, there are challenges with respect to the application of 8D BIM. All information calculated with respect to the 4D through 8D of the BIM are entirely dependent upon the level of development or “LOD” of the information contained within the BIM. As with all other aspects of the digital world, garbage in means garbage out. Another challenge is creating a seamless integration between the BIM and the various software and applications required to track and generate information regarding 4D through 8D. Finally, and perhaps the biggest challenge, is the costs and training required to adopt and apply new technologies, including integration of new software with BIM. However, the usefulness of 8D BIM, coupled with the development of Smart Cities will most likely promote all stakeholders to overcome these challenges at some point in the future. [See, “How the Creation of Smart Cities Impacts Urban Life”, posted 10/25/23].

As a practical matter “artificial intelligence” or AI is changing all this tracking. Humans are fallible, many are overworked, get sick, and take vacations. AI works 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In the past 8D BIM was a dream. Now it is a real application. The collection and addition of data is almost unlimited.  Odds are that additional dimensions will be added to the 8D BIM  in the near future. These additional dimensions, will most likely expand upon issues of sustainability, including green building. energy conservation, and the carbon footprint of assets.


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